Artist-turned-helmer Su Rynard gets the tough stuff (like the period backstory) right but then muffs easy business (like the contempo framing) in the time-jumping “Kardia,” which wants to explore the human heart but only scratches the surface. With work, ambitious pic could be pruned down to its best elements for a shot at longer fest life and invites to science-minded events.
Pic’s framing device is the sudden collapse of a pathologist named Hope (tube regular Mimi Kuzyk), who underwent experimental heart surgery in the 1950s to correct a congenital problem.
Later in life, she uses her research skills to examine emotional, material and even spiritual aspects of her own history. Pic hinges on very well-staged and lensed re-creations of her stark Toronto childhood, with Hope an abandoned baby who was found and raised by a sympathetic war veteran (Peter Stebbings).
This surrogate father, who teaches the girl (played mostly by Ariel Waller) the facts of life and science, is gradually going blind. When she undergoes heart surgery, he donates his blood for a transfusion for her. Through beautifully re-created operation scenes interspersed throughout the story, viewers gradually come to wonder if her blood donor was really as she remembers him, or if adult Hope has cooked up an elaborate back story to give her life more richness.
As provocative as these scenes are, they are deflated somewhat by the present-tense material, which is saturated in overly poeticized voiceovers that add little to the action, as Hope searches for clues from the past. Furthermore, a subplot involving two young researchers (Kristin Booth, Stephen Lobo) is sketchily imagined and awkwardly directed, further dampening tale’s main thrust.
Removing the narration and limiting the subplot would allow Rynard to do a better job of driving home the story about the limits — and potential — of the body’s most important muscle. And it would take Kuzyk out of straitjacket of explaining things every moment she’s on screen.
“Kardia” is the Latin root of heart and care.